The Europe Theatre Prize maintains its international progress in the meeting of countries and cultures, informed by the theatre, which is understood as a privileged place to come together and exchange ideas.
The Europe Theatre Prize was created in 1986 as a pilot project for theatre from the European Commission, and first awarded in 1987. It promotes interdisciplinarity, integration and cooperation between the scenic arts. Since 2002 it has been recognized by the European Council and Parliament as an organization of European cultural interest. It is considered as the main European theatre award and it has often been referred to as the "Oscar" or the "Nobel" for theatre.
After being awarded in Taormina nine times, the Europe Theatre Prize was ready for a move. The tenth edition was held in Turin, the following two in Thessaloniki. The Prize then moved to Wroclaw, St. Petersburg, Craiova and Rome and, for its XVII edition, it returns again to St. Petersburg.
Last year, at the sixteenth edition, the Prize was the final event of the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome and the project that kicked off the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018. The ceremony finished with an incomparable staged reading of Harold Pinter's Ashes to Ashes, masterfully performed by Isabelle Huppert and Jeremy Irons, who have been defined by The Guardian as "theatrical dynamite".
In 2018, with its return to Russia as part of the VII Cultural Forum, the Prize will once again serve as a bridge that uses theatre and art to connect and encourage dialogue across geographical, cultural, political and social differences.
Since the Prize was first conceived, the choice was made for it not to be merely an occasion for frivolity and celebration. The recipients of the Prize periodically participate in conversations, meetings and conferences. During the event, they present performances, previews, work in progress and readings, so as to offer the public, critics and those who study and practise theatre a chance to step inside their approach to theatre. Furthermore, the main winner may stage a preview or a special creation for the Europe Theatre Prize (which could become a full performance afterwards). Previous winners who have made such previews or special creations for the Prize include Giorgio Strehler, Robert Wilson, Luca Ronconi, Pina Bausch, Lev Dodin, Michel Piccoli, Harold Pinter, Robert Lepage, Patrice Chéreau, Krystyan Lupa and Mats Ek.
Among other things, the Europe Theatre Prize awards two prizes: the Europe Theatre Prize (ETP) and the Europe Prize Theatrical Realities (EPTR).
The ETP, a career award, is conferred upon "those personalities or theatrical institutions (theatres, companies) that have contributed to the realisation of cultural events that promote understanding and the exchange of knowledge between peoples". The winner of this career prize selected, for the whole of his or her artistic journey, from among the most important exponents of international theatre, understood in its various forms, articulations and expressions.
The EPTR has been awarded since the third edition of the Prize, out of a desire to encourage trends and initiatives in European theatre, with no restrictions as to genre of performance or role in the theatrical productions.
The Jury of the Europe Prize Theatrical Realities is assisted and aided in the selection of candidates by a board with 400 participants, including the Associate Bodies of the Prize (Union des Théâtres de l’Europe, Association Internationale des Critiques de Théâtre, International Theatre Institute UNESCO, European Festivals Association, European Theatre Convention and Europe: Union of Theatre Schools and Academies), winners of the past editions, critics, journalists, theatre and festival directors and representatives of cultural institutions.
Now in its seventeenth edition, more than thirty years since its inception, the Europe Theatre Prize can look back on its history and its motivations, the reasons for its creation and its future.
In this sense, the choice of the two winners, aim to pay tribute to two exemplary artists while also remembering the work done by the Jury during the first ten editions of the Prize. Highly distinguished jurors contributed to the growth and promotion of the Europe Theatre Prize. Out of all of them, the staff wish to mention a few who made crucial contributions and who are no longer with us: Renzo Tian, Permanent Secretary of the Jury since the first edition, whose great balance, organizational skills, fair diplomacy and profound theatre knowledge left an impression that has made this prize one of Europe's most prestigious cultural events. Those were also the years of the contributions from scholar and renowned critic Franco Quadri, a man who was able to offer noteworthy incitement and productive motivation to contemporary theatre. Quadri was part of the Jury since the third edition and presided over it in the XIII and XIV editions. The last was held here in St. Petersburg. They were also the years of Tatiana Proskournikova, critic, historian and theatre scholar and Vice President of the Association Internationale des Critiques de Théâtre. She was a member of the Jury from the third to the tenth editions, and has played a fundamental role in bringing Russia past the curtain, in recent years as well.
And from the same decade, one cannot forget José Monleón, his style and political sensibilities. He was a member of the Jury for the Prize since the third edition, founder of the magazine Primer Acto and Director of the Institute of the Mediterranean Theater, an institution with a fundamental role in bringing out, promoting and uniting artists from the south, linking the two shores of the Mediterranean and succeeding in giving visibility to theatres considered to be minorities in political or geographical terms.
Today the awarding of these prizes allows us to rediscover the artistic, cultural and political coordinates that we risked losing. A look toward the past can therefore help us to get moving again, by reminding us of the work of artists, scholars, organizers and critics who fought for an open European theatre able to overcome every barrier and prejudice.
By remembering those who, thirty years ago, succeeded in plotting new courses, today we reward those who followed, on the path of scrupulousness, sensitivity and commitment, of those coordinates that will culturally re-ground Europe today.